In the mid 90's the two of us were a presenting team for Catholic Engaged Encounter for the Diocese of St. Petersburg in Florida. That meant that we spent an entire weekend with about 25 to 30 couples who were fulfilling their marriage preparation obligation through participation in this weekend. Once the couples gathered for the beginning of the weekend on Friday night, we the team couples introduced ourselves and we would simply say, "We are Mike and Mar Nikolich and we have been married for 28 years." There would be a collective sound that echoed through the audience of couples (like amazement) and we simply said, "We are here to give you hope for marriage!"
One thing for sure – it was a very different time in society when we decided to join the ranks of married couples. Our marriage preparation consisted of a priest (God love his soul) telling US how to be married. And, one small little book about marriage; it couldn't have been more than 50 pages in all. And so for the first 12 years of our marriage, we struggled with the good times and some of the most difficult of times of our married life. You know the vows that we all took on our wedding day... "for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part." I'm sure in our 37 years of marriage we have definitely done the richer, the poorer, the sickness and the health, the unemployment, the alcoholism, the infertility, a troubled teenager and much more. But we have one thing that some couples do not have – the absolute positive desire and determination that we would never leave each other. This was, is and always will be a lifetime commitment together. Not once did we ever utter the words, "I'm outta here!"
So the big question is this – "How do you pass this thought process onto others?" This is the beginning of our journey with you sharing the stories, the communications skills, the absolute things that you must do in your relationship to remain together and in love! Here's one formula that we share with couples that are embarking on their six-month marriage preparation program at our parish – write it down and put it somewhere you can see it – maybe on your refrigerator:
If you want your marriage to work, this is the formula – no exceptions to the rule!
TIME + POSITIVE INTERACTION + ENERGY = RELATIONSHIP
One last thought – we firmly believe that couples must periodically make time for marriage enrichment weekends, seminars and spend quality time communicating. We also plan to share some "guidelines for fighting." the importance of understanding each other's feelings, how to cleanse your relationship daily, and how to say "Yes I want to change for you!!"! That's really the name of the game – CHANGE. We have never stopped changing since we made our Marriage Encounter Weekend in September 1976 in Old Saybrook, Connecticut. Mike went on the weekend to change Mar and Mar went on the weekend to change Mike and you know the rest of the story – we both had to change!!! And we are still changing!
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